Andy and I went on a guided walk along the route of the “mighty river Fleet” from its rising on Hampstead Heath, down its route through Camden, and into the City to its outfall under Blackfriars Bridge. Our two guides (Jenni and Rob) were excellent – very knowledgeable and friendly.
There were areas along the walk that I very interested in exploring again – Hampstead itself and Kings Cross which I have no photographs of because it was dark when we got there!
My favourite thing about the heath was when we were shown a spring. To the untrained eye (i.e. me) it just looked like a puddle but when I looked closer it was obvious that the puddle was on a slope and the water was moving slowly. Hampstead has iron rich waters (with the marvellous name of chalybeate) which were popular with the health conscious Georgians and Victorians. This fountain with its red and orange rust is beautiful.
Essentially the waters of the Fleet are invisible after the heath but the evidence of its existence is there in the landscape particularly when walking along a street laid out on top of it and looking upwards at the sloping side streets. There are also architectural remains such as the Georgian house on Hawley Road which apparently used to be on the banks of the Fleet but now stands in all its deteriorated glory on a busy street.
This engraving shows people on the banks of the Fleet near St Pancras Old Church (presumably it wasn’t actually called that then).
The Fleet is above ground at this point where it goes over the Tottenham and Hampstead Junction Railway (now part of the Gospel Oak to Barking Line). I think this powerfully illustrates the enormous impact the railways have had on the landscape. A river is going over a railway line.
As much as I enjoyed the reason why we were on the walk, it was also a great opportunity to walk the streets of areas I rarely or never visit.
Organisations like Jews for Jesus do my head in. They do have a snappy name.
Sadly I never saw a film at this magnificent J. Stanley Beard & Clare cinema (although I did see several at its sister cinema in Ealing) but I do know that I saw Bjorn Again there when the Forum was called the Town and Country Club.
As I said it was dark by the time we got to Kings Cross so there are many things we saw and learned about that I will have to document another day: the wall at Mount Pleasant, Lenin’s chip shop, Little Italy, etc.
The walk down Farringdon Street which was built over the Fleet was certainly downhill all the way with fascinating and telling side roads: Turnagain Lane, Old Fleet Lane and Old Seacoal Lane.
The outfall under Blackfriars Bridge was a little disappointing in its lack of mightiness: it wasn’t very wide. It was also hard to see. You needed to know the right place to lean over the Victorian Embankment wall to spot the place marked with a green light and an access ladder.
Not what we saw! (via Paul Talling’s London’s Lost Rivers)